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NBA Playoffs: Celtics use late surge to push past Wizards in Game 7

NBA Playoffs: Celtics use late surge to push past Wizards in Game 7

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BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas said he didn't feel any pressure entering the first Game 7 of his career.

His play backed up his confidence and with the help of Kelly Olynyk and the Boston Celtics bench, Thomas earned the biggest win of his career.

Thomas scored 29 points and had 12 assists, Olynyk scored a career-playoff high 26 points and the Celtics used a big fourth quarter to outlast the Washington Wizards 115-105 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Monday night.

"I knew it would be a big time game tonight. I knew it wouldn't be easy at all," Thomas said. "And we came out on top."

Led by Olynyk the Celtics got a huge lift from their bench, outscoring their Wizards' counterparts 48-5. Boston also connected on 11 3-pointers, including 8 of 13 in the second half.

"We needed it," Olynyk said. "That's a tough team that we played seven tough games against and they can score. We needed to help out the starters, help out Isaiah."

Boston advances to the Eastern Conference finals, where it will host the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 on Wednesday. It's the Celtics first appearance in the conference finals since 2012.

"What a special opportunity to get a chance to compete against them," Boston coach Brad Stevens said.

For Thomas it serves as the ultimate validation for a team that many felt was unworthy of the conference's top seed. It also marked the latest big performance by Thomas, in a playoff run that began in the haze of his younger sister's death in a car accident. The 28-year-old All-Star has called the basketball court his sanctuary, and he continues to credit his teammates for giving him the strength to perform at a high level.

"That says a lot about the team we are and we believe in each other," Thomas said. "The game wasn't always what we wanted it to be and it wasn't a perfect game. But we kept going and stayed the course."

Bradley Beal led the Wizards -- which was playing it its first Game 7 since 1979 -- with 38 points, including 24 in the second half.

"I don't care how well I played," Beal said afterward. "I don't care if I played bad. The end result...The only thing that matters is getting a win."

Otto Porter added 20 points. John Wall and Markieff Morris each finished with 18. But Washington also had 15 turnovers, leading to 17 Celtics' points.

Boston trailed 76-72 late in the third quarter before ending the period on a 13-3 spurt . The run grew to 22-5 in the opening minutes of the fourth as the Celtics' lead became 94-81.

But Washington quickly responded, scoring seven straight in just 51 seconds to get back within six.

Washington stayed close as Beal continued to score, including a four-point play . But Olynyk then took over. He scored 11 of 13 points for Boston as the Celtics stretched their advantage to 110-100.

"He just made shots," Marcin Gortat said of Olynyk. "He was the difference today -- a huge difference."

Brooks played Beal and Wall 46 and 45 minutes, respectively, but said it was necessary to try to stay in the game.

"I knew it would come down to the last six minutes of the game," Washington coach Scott Brooks said. "They had that little run at the start of the fourth quarter."

The Celtics had the largest lead of the first half at 10-2, but that gap was quickly erased by Washington as Boston started to accumulate fouls.

Marcus Smart, Amir Johnson and Olynyk all were whistled for three fouls in the opening 24 minutes, though Smart did inject some life into a second unit that outscored their Wizards' counterparts 19-5.

Wall and Beal each were beneficiaries scoring eight and nine points, respectively in the second quarter to help the Wizards take a two-point lead into halftime.

"It's tough. We came out here Game 7 and gave everything we had. Just came up short," Wall said. "Our goal was to get to Eastern Conference finals and we came up one game short. So it's a not a satisfied season to me."

Tip-ins
Wizards: Dropped to 6-4 all-time in Game 7s. ... Still have not reached a conference final since 1979. ... Outrebounded the Celtics 43-31.

Celtics: Improved to 22-8 all-time in Game 7s and 19-4 all-time at home. ...Outscored the Wizards 58-40 in the paint. ... Lost season series to Cleveland 3-1.

Home-court dominance
The Wizards came up short of becoming the first team in this matchup to win on the opponent's home floor in 2016-17. All 11 meetings this season (four in regular-season and seven postseason) were claimed by the home team.

Kevin Knox, Zhaire Smith to have 2nd workout for Sixers

Kevin Knox, Zhaire Smith to have 2nd workout for Sixers

The Sixers are taking another look at two prospects two days before the NBA draft, in which they hold pick No. 10.

Kentucky forward Kevin Knox will be back at the training complex again Tuesday for an individual workout. Last week, he participated in a group setting.

Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith also will return for a second group workout.

Both stood out their first time in Camden, New Jersey.

“He walked into the gym, it’s not hard to see the intrigue with his size and mobility, his frame,” senior director of basketball operations Vince Rozman said of the 6-foot-9 Knox last week. “He’s 18, so there’s a lot to develop from.”

Knox, who averaged 15.6 points (34.1 percent from three), 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists as a freshman, was confident following his first performance for the Sixers.

“They’re really interested in me,” Knox said. “They love my game, they love the way I can shoot the ball. That’s something they really like to do is shoot a lot of threes. My versatility, being able to take guys off the dribble is something that would complement really well with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.”

The 6-foot-5 Smith posted 11.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists his freshman season. He was focused on demonstrating shooting, decision-making and playmaking during his first workout.

“He’s got great length,” vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley said last week. “He’s a terrific, terrific athlete. He didn’t shoot the ball as well throughout the year, but he came in here today and shot it pretty well.”

The Sixers additionally hold picks No. 26, 38, 39, 56 and 60. Tuesday’s group workout also will include La Salle guard-forward B.J. Johnson, USC guard De’Anthony Melton, Fairfield guard Tyler Nelson, Kansas guard Malik Newman and Wichita State guard Landry Shamet.

More on Sixers, NBA draft

• Knox thinks he would fit with Sixers

• NBA draft profile: Kentucky's Knox

NBA draft profile: Texas Tech's Smith

NBA draft profile: UCLA PG Aaron Holiday

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NBA draft profile: UCLA PG Aaron Holiday

Aaron Holiday

Position: Guard

Height: 6-0

Weight: 187

School: UCLA

Sixers fans should recognize the name. Aaron Holiday is the brother of former Sixers first-round pick Jrue Holiday and Bulls wing Justin Holiday. Aaron is the youngest — and smallest — of the three. 

A three-year player at UCLA, Holiday developed into one of the most prodigious scorers and shooters in Bruins history. He was the first UCLA player to lead the Pac 12 in scoring (20.3 points per game) since some guy named Reggie Miller. For his efforts, he was named to the All-Pac 12 first team.

For his college career, Holiday averaged 14.3 points and 4.7 assists per contest in 101 games (65 starts). He also hit 180 treys, shooting 42 percent from three.

Strengths
Holiday’s most obvious and translatable NBA attribute is his jump shot. He shot over 40 percent in all three of his seasons at UCLA and is capable off the dribble, off screens and in catch-and-shoot opportunities. He also has NBA range and is not afraid to pull up from any spot on the floor.

For his size, he’s a good, creative finisher and features a pretty nice floater. He understands how to attack defenses, especially in the pick and roll. He’s excellent at changing his pace and lulling defenders to sleep. He’s a good and willing passer. Defensively he has excellent instincts. He’s aggressive and does well at getting his hands in passing lanes.

Weaknesses
Size is a huge issue for Holiday. The other big issue is, he’s just an OK athlete that lacks quickness and explosion while driving to the basket. Defense is always going to be an issue as he’ll struggle to guard some of the bigger and more explosive point guards in the league. He also struggled with turnovers.

NBA comparison
Aaron Brooks, most recently of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Both players make up for their size with excellent perimeter shooting. Brooks was more explosive coming out of Oregon, but also has a good change of pace to confuse opponents. Holiday has better feel and vision. Brooks has struggled defensively at the NBA level and Holiday will likely encounter the same issues.

How he'd fit with Sixers
It’s tough to project Holiday to the Sixers. His shooting would play well here and playing with a 6-foot-10 point guard would certainly help his cause, but where would he fit? He won’t be a starter right away and the Sixers already feature T.J. McConnell off the bench. McConnell provides energy and top-notch defense that Holiday cannot.

Draft projection
The modern NBA is all about the three so teams will be interested in Holiday as a backup point guard and shooter off the bench. He could go anywhere from the late teens to the mid-20s.

More on the Sixers and the NBA draft